by Fred Mills
Straight outta war-torn Belfast, Stiff Little Fingers, fronted by larynx-shredding vocalist-guitarist Jake Burns, dived headlong into the punk fray in 1978 with a Clash-worthy, neutron bomb of a single, “Suspect Device.” Signing to Rough Trade, the group quickly assembled its debut LP, and Inflammable Material sounds as fresh now as it did in 1979. No small wonder: It contains the signature SLF politi-anthem, the incendiary “Alternative Ulster,” a tune no self-respecting punk compilation should omit. 1980’s Nobody’s Heroes was next, a somewhat more diverse and melodic affair as typified by the sturdy title track and the psychedelic dub vibe of “Bloody Dub.” A live album to capture Burns & Co.’s concert prowess was now in order; Hanx! (1980) reprised key numbers such as “Ulster,” “Nobody’s Hero” (here, faster and harder) and “At the Edge,” whose velocity almost made it a punk version of Love Sculpture’s “Sabre Dance.” Go For It (1981) was the group’s most accomplished effort, its widescreen production (check the effects in “Kicking Up A Racket”) and deployment of horns (punk-soul number “Silver Lining”) suggesting a band in the process of evolving. By 1982, however, that evolution seemed to stall, and following a final album (Now Then) Burns disbanded the group, eventually re-forming it in 1987. Consumer Note: These four discs are almost identical to the remastered reissues that came out in Britain on EMI a few years ago; each comes with two or three bonus tracks plus worthy Jake Burns interview material.
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